Late Night Snacks: UConn brings the energy, Mountain West brings the excitement

Leave a comment

Game of the Day: No. 24 Colorado State 66, San Diego State 60

The key to beating San Diego State is often shutting down the heart of that team’s offensive attack, Jamaal Franklin. Colorado State was able to do that in the second half. Dorian Green had 16 points, including a big but controversial layup, plus the foul, that proved to be the dagger Wednesday night.

The Mountain West is a crowded conference race, yes, but Colorado State showed that it has the firepower to make a run for the top.

Important Outcomes

1. No. 2 Duke 73, North Carolina 68

It wasn’t pretty, but No. 2 Duke was able to clean up its act in the second half by sharing the ball and locking down on defense to seal a win over rival North Carolina. Mason Plumlee overcame early offensive struggles to finish with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He imposed his will in the paint once he found his comfort zone, despite playing in foul trouble down the stretch.

2. Connecticut 66, No. 6 Syracuse 58

The Huskies might be banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments, but don’t tell Kevin Ollie’s team. UConn continues to play with the fire of an NCAA tournament-bound team. The backcourt trio of Omar Calhoun, Ryan Boatright, and Shabazz Napier combined for 42 of Connecticut’s 66 points in the win.

3. Charlotte 71, No. 11 Butler 67

It’s crowded at the top of the Atlantic 10. With the loss, Butler falls into a tie with La Salle and Xavier for third place, but still just a half game behind Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Louis for the conference lead. Charlotte pounded Butler in the paint, which the Bulldogs had no answer for without center Andrew Smith, who was sitting with injury. Guard Rotnei Clarke almost single-handedly brought Butler back in the final minutes, scoring 15 points in just over three minutes, but came up short.

Starred

1. Elston Turner, Texas A&M (37 points, 13-of-20 FG, 7-of-10 3pt FG)

Texas A&M needed every last one of Turner’s points Wednesday to score a two-point win over Ole Miss. He carried the Aggies, including a basket with 0:16 to play that pushed the game to two possessions. It is the second major win in which he has exploded for 35 or more points, having put down 40 in a road win over Kentucky earlier in the year.

2. Joe Jackson, Memphis (21 points, 10-of-12 FG, 10 assists)

The Memphis offense was firing on all cylinders Wednesday and Jackson was at the center of it. He was efficient and a threat both scoring and distributing the basketball. The Tigers have climbed back into the Top 25 and are looking regain the respect that they had prior to their early season slump.

3. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State (25 points, 7-of-8 3pt FG)

The Cowboys remain tied for the top of the Big 12 after their blowout win over Texas Tech Wednesday. Part of the reason Oklahoma State was able to jump out to such a lead was Brown’s hot shooting from beyond the arc.

Also of Note: Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State (27 points, 13 rebounds)

Struggled

1. Brandon Triche, Syracuse (9 points, 3-of-15 FG, 0-of-7 3pt FG)

Triche was part of a Syracuse offense that couldn’t find its mark on Wednesday night. As a team, the Orange shot just 35 percent which was a major factor, especially considering that the defense was able to amass a +8 turnover margin.

2. Winston Shepard, San Diego State (2 points, 0-of-5 FG, 2 TOs)

Shepard could not find his groove, but continued to look for a shot when it wasn’t there. In the second half, he missed a close layup, got his own rebound, and missed the putback, which Colorado State ultimately grabbed and got out in transition. This game comes on the heels of a solid 10-point outing he had against Fresno State on Saturday.

3. Josh Benson, Dayton (6 points, 1-of-6 FG, 3 TOs, 5 Fouls)

Benson was well off his season average of 10 points per game and was only able to log 16 minutes due to foul trouble. It was in part why the Flyers fell to a Rhode Island team that was previously 1-8 in A-10 play.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

1 Comment

Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

Allen Dean Steele /Allsport
1 Comment

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.